Dastan Banae Empowers Change Through Education

Kurdistan is brimming with stories of people who have left their homeland and gone on to achieve great success in other countries. These valued members of the Kurdish diaspora su

Dastan Banae Empowers Change Through Education
July 07, 2024

Kurdistan is brimming with stories of people who have left their homeland and gone on to achieve great success in other countries. These valued members of the Kurdish diaspora succeed because of their own efforts and dedications across countless areas from art, business, entertainment, finance, health, and even in bureaucracies or services of the governments of their new home countries. 

In the field of education, Dastan Banae is one such success story. Banae recently received the Excellence in Teaching Award at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in the United States.

Hailing from Shaqlawa, a historic city in the Kurdistan Region northeast of Erbil flanked by the Safeen and Sork mountains. He holds a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and a master’s in information technology from SNHU, but came to the United States in 2012 to complete his education. He is a developer and instructor at SNHU and Simmons University in Boston. 

When I ask Banae about why he had received the Excellence in Teaching Award at SNHU and how he felt about it, he eagerly begins to share his story. 

“The Excellence in Teaching Award in 2023 was particularly meaningful because the students chose the nominees, and the winner was announced at the commencement ceremony in front of thousands of people,” he explains. 

This recognition is a significant achievement for anyone, but for him, it was incredibly gratifying as a newcomer to this community. As he highlights, he has dedicated himself to serving the country and building his career.

“Being an immigrant comes with its own set of challenges,” he admits. “But, seeing the results of my hard work and dedication is truly rewarding.” 

Many people in Kurdistan celebrated Banae receiving this award. Their joy – especially that of his beloved family – added an extra layer of happiness to the experience.

Banae feels incredibly fulfilled teaching at an esteemed university in the United States. His background as a Kurd has dramatically influenced his academic and professional journey. He is from a region with unique challenges and struggles, but he has developed resilience, determination, and a deep appreciation for education as a means of empowerment and change.

Connections and collaborations

As an immigrant and member of the Kurdish community, Banae has instilled in himself a strong sense of responsibility to positively impact his personal and professional endeavors. 

His experience teaching at SNHU allows him to contribute to his students’ academic and intellectual growth, while also representing and advocating for his heritage on a global platform. “It’s a privilege and an honor to use my background and experiences to enrich the educational environment and foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.” 

In the years ahead, Banae plans to pursue doctoral studies in artificial intelligence (AI), focusing on advancing his understanding and expertise in this rapidly evolving field. He is currently supervising AI projects with his students and managing an AI community of practice at work. He has also suggested to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that growth and development in this field should be considered, particularly with strategic investments and collaborations aimed at harnessing AI to support the region’s progress.

Banae also believes that universities in Kurdistan Region need to think about investing in AI by opening college branches, experimenting with labs, and collaborating with global partners. 

Even though Banae is teaching in the United States, he has collaborated with various universities and individuals in Kurdistan. In 2019, he was involved in efforts to establish a partnership between SNHU and the American University of Kurdistan to offer refugees bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, he supervised automation processes at the University of Sulaymaniyah. He is eager to foster such connections and collaborations further, leveraging his expertise to support the growth of these developing universities.

“My love and passion for Kurdistan drive my desire to contribute to its advancement and development. And I am willing to help whenever and wherever they need me,” he said. 

When I asked Dastan how he can establish a connection between SNHU and universities in Kurdistan, he explained that SNHU is one of the most innovative universities in the United States and has much to offer when it comes to technological innovation and process automation. It is also one of the largest online schools in the country, with over 200,000 students. 

“The KRG can use my connections with SNHU to build a communication and collaboration bridge,” he says.

Apart from his teaching, Dastan is an avid real estate investor with properties in Florida and Wisconsin. He enjoys buying and investing in houses as part of his financial portfolio. 

Beyond real estate, he is passionate about athletics, particularly long-distance running. He actively participates in marathons and half marathons, with a personal goal of completing the half marathons for all 50 U.S. states. He is also a member of the Greater Manchester Running Club, one of city’s oldest running clubs. 

He firmly believes in the importance of work-life balance and makes it a point to dedicate time to his hobbies and personal well-being. This includes spending his free time traveling to different parts of the world three to four times a year.

Goran Shakhawan is a Kurdish-American journalist and author based in the United States. He covered news for several Kurdish news outlets and was a former senior correspondent for Kurdistan24 in Erbil and Washington D.C. He has published several books in Kurdish.

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